Demolition likely for Civil War-era house on Soniat Street in New Orleans _lowres

Advocate staff photo by SHERRI MILLER -- 918 Soniat St. in New Orleans on Wednesday, July 8, 2015.

A house on Soniat Street that may date back as far as the Civil War is likely to be torn down and replaced with new construction.

Contractor David Carimi told the city’s Neighborhood Conservation District Advisory Committee last week that he bought the house at 918 Soniat in October after the death of the previous owner, who lived out of the country and rented out the home.

Carimi said he had planned on renovating the house at first, but when he began removing wallboard and plaster, he discovered damage in load-bearing walls. He said a structural engineer confirmed that the house is in danger of collapsing, possibly onto the house next door.

Carimi said he is still planning to live at that address but now plans to tear the house down and build a new one in its place.

“The home had not been maintained in a tremendous amount of years,” Carimi said, noting that squatters had taken up residence while it was empty. “It is in horrible condition, unfortunately.”

Committee members voted 7-2 to allow the demolition, though all their recommendations are forwarded to the City Council for final approval.

Opposition to the plan came from Hilary Irvin, a nearby Coliseum Street resident and former architectural historian with the Vieux Carré Commission.

She said her research into the property traces it back to 1867.

She said a seamstress bought it that year and that her family eventually lost it when Jim Crow laws were passed.

Irvin asked the committee to defer its vote on whether the house can be knocked down. She acknowledged that it might be in bad shape but asked for more time so neighbors could meet with the owner.

“I think the property has significant history,” Irvin said. “We’re hoping for a deferral so we can find out what’s going on with this and try to salvage this unusual history.”

Carimi said part of the trouble with the house is the way that additions have been slapped on over the years. That has resulted in “crazy roof lines” that collect water, he said.

Meanwhile, he said, he is not sure the entire home is as old as records indicate, given the presence of some newer building materials he has found.

“This structure is in horrible shape, and I know horrible shape,” Carimi said. “The house is about to fall down, and we’re in the midst of hurricane season. I think it’s a rather urgent thing to address this problem sooner rather than later.”